Friday, November 13, 2009

How to check Pak Anti Americanism

How to check Pak Anti Americanism
By Saeed Naqvi
Dated: 12.11.2009

The questions around Iran’s Presidential election, amplified by the Western media, would pale before the outright fraud involved in the elections in neighbouring Afghanistan. Little wonder Peter Galbraith, the UN’s second in Command in Kabul and a friend of special envoy to Af-Pak, Richard Holbrook, left in protest.

Slowly, a somewhat steadied script is coming into focus both in Teheran as well as in Kabul. Iran is now engaged in the dialogue process.

Now that run-off elections in Kabul having been called off, the way has probably been paved for some sort of a holding operation – a government of national unity, under whatever guise.

This backdrop may be useful to gauge how Washington might view the current turbulence in Pakistan.

President Bush always described Gen. Musharraf in the most glowing terms: Musharraf was Bush’s “greatest” ally in the war against terror.

By 2007, this “war on terror” began to recoil on Musharraf and Pakistan. There were 70 suicide attacks in 2007 as against six in 2006 – growing in direct proportion to the US or Pak action in the Af-Pak border areas.

How to protect Musharraf from the blowback? Also, for sheer survival, he was obviously playing both sides of the street because the epicenter of the militancy had shifted to the Pakistan side of Af-Pak.

One way to get out of the jam was to have a more diffuse power structure in Islamabad. Instead of Musharraf facing the blowback in isolation, a troika of President Musharraf, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani would share the brunt.

Benazir had persuaded Washington and London that not only would she throw everything at her command in the “war on terror” but she would even hand over A.Q. Khan to the US for scrutiny.

The deal thus sealed, Benazir returned and, in an atmosphere of anti Americanism, was assassinated.

Meanwhile, Musharraf found himself on a slippery slope: Lal Masjid fiasco, (it was suddenly realized that there were 88 Madrasas with 20,000 students in and around the Pakistan capital); sacking of the chief justice, emergency, lawyers’ movement…..

The deal was between Musharraf, Benazir, Army and the Americans. Therefore an election in a post Benazir situation could yield unexpected and unmanageable results. This the Americans could not risk in the midst of their own Presidential campaign.

Paradoxically, Americans needed elections to keep the US Congress off their backs. Under the circumstances, even “sanitized” elections were acceptable. Little wonder, the International Republican Institute, which was to monitor the elections, left.

After a series of remarkable gyrations, (son Bilal Zardari was renamed Bilal Bhutto at a tribal ceremony) Zardari was helped onto the gaddi via an election process.

Without any American affiliations, Nawaz Sharief made a good showing and ended up with the powerful chief ministership of Punjab.

The rest is recent history.

What is on show now in Islamabad is a feat of incredible agility by Zardari, a sort of tap-dance on a floor riddled with mines. Sooner or later he will trip. He is making cow-eyes at the Americans who, at this juncture, are not interested in salvaging the country’s most unpopular leader.

What has hit the Americans where it hurts is the massive public outrage at the Kerry-Lugar bill.

“Here we are throwing $7.5 billion at them only to be reviled and hated!” How can this be minimized?

The US has learnt some lessons in the region the hard way. It indicated a preference for Rafsanjani in 2005 and Ahmedinejad won. Karzai was sanctified by the West. He turned out to be less than an effective mayor of Kabul. The US acquiesced in “Mister 10 percent”. The dislike for him has in geometrical progression multiplied anti Americanism.

It is argued that Prime Minister Gilani has a clean image. But can he control the anti American tidal wave?

Nawaz Sharief, on the other hand is free of the US taint. He is much the most popular politician with links to the Taleban too through personal and Saudi connections. He will be a popular leader who in the ultimate analysis, will after all, need the Americans. As far as the Army is concerned, his blood fued was with Musharraf not Kayani!

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